This past summer I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Of course, I made great friends and got to know the various people in my program, but I also wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone and do the things I wanted to do even if it meant I…dare I say it… did it alone. But, this isn’t going to be a ground-breaking post about the beautiful ways I found my “real” self and explored the depths of my personality while growing like a butterfly grows out of their cocoon. Instead, I’m going to tell you that it is and isn’t all it’s cracked up to be all the time.
1) It is a learning and growing experience
When you venture out on your own, in a place you have never been or are unfamiliar with it can be intimidating, but you will learn a lot about the place, the people and yourself. As cliché as it sounds, the time to yourself to explore a new place will lead you to also explore yourself. This can be anything from building your confidence in asking people for help, getting comfortable with the ever-dreaded eating alone, and learning or expanding your limitations.
2) It’s not always all it is cracked up to be
You can go on the internet and read thousands of posts just like this one. The main difference will be every post glorifies traveling alone. In reality, things may go wrong, you may get lost, you might miss a train and you might come home wishing it went differently. That’s when the personal growth kicks in and you have to force yourself to look at the positives. That’s easier said than done, just like it is easier to travel with a buddy rather than alone because maybe that means you don’t get lost or you have someone else to blame when you do. Regardless it may not be sunshine and roses, but odds are there were moments of clear skies and at points you could smell the roses.
3) You may feel lonely and that’s okay
(If you are ever feeling too lonely while traveling solo, find an animal to feel instantly better)
Sometimes when we are surrounded by friends and company it becomes easy to forget how comfortable that makes us because it feels like second nature. So, when we venture without our comfort blanket of company, it can be jarring. It’s okay to walk around and feel lonely that you don’t have anyone to talk to. Similarly, it is okay to sit at a restaurant and feel a little blue that everyone around you is joking and laughing with friends. It is in that moment that we can appreciate the time we spend with friends and also push ourselves to be more open and outgoing.
4) You will do what you want on your own time and that is freeing
This is possibly the best part of traveling alone—you are on your own time. That means you can see what you want when you want and don’t have to compromise your plans to adjust to someone else’s. Go eat where you want, however much you want and be happy that you have the freedom to do so.
5) You will slow down
When you go alone and have the downtime of eating by yourself and walking without someone to talk to, you would be shocked at how much more you see. Whether that be observing the people, places or both, when you slow down, you will gain a whole new appreciation for the place you are in and that is what you will cherish most.
6) It will be humbling
When you go through all of the ups and downs of traveling alone, it becomes a humbling experience. You gain more appreciation for your friends, you respect the place you are in, and greater appreciation for every other person you see traveling alone.
7) The biggest challenge will be finding a person to take that cute not candid but candid photo
Enough said. It’s always awkward to ask a stranger to take fake candid of you “exploring a castle” or “laughing with a latte.” Sometimes you get lucky and find the other solo traveler willing to take your picture if you take theirs, but there is no guarantee. So, if you want pics to prove it you have to suck it up and ask… especially if you’re like me and want to prove you found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
8) You are 1000x more likely to meet people and connect deeper
When you travel alone and go to restaurants or cafes it makes you way more approachable to the locals than you would be with a group of people. This opens the door for you to connect with people and learn about them in a way you would never be able to before. The only caveat is you have to put yourself out there to get anything in return.
Traveling on your own can be the most challenging, yet personally rewarding experience you have. Do not be afraid to experience the highs and lows to learn about yourself, the city and those around you.